§ (1) A certificate granted by or on behalf of a Government Department under Sub section (5) of Section two of the principal Act shall cease to be a certificate of exemption for the purposes of the principal Act or of this Act notwithstanding that it has been directed by that department to be so treated unless within thirty days after the passing of this Act, as respects a certificate granted before the second day of March, nineteen hundred and sixteen, or within thirty days after the date on which the certificate is granted as respects a certificate granted after the passing of this Act, the holder of the certerficate of exemption makes an application to the local tribunal for the confirmation of the certificate.
§ (2) Upon such application the local tribunal may either confirm or disallow the certificate, and where the certificate is disallowed it shall cease to be in force as a certificate of exemption for the purpose of the principal Act or of this Act.
§ (3) The Government Department by or on behalf of which the certificate was granted may appear and shall have the same right of appeal in any application to a tribunal under this Section as if that Department was a party to the application.—[Mr. Griffith.]
§ Clause brought up, and read the first time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."
In order to understand this Clause it is necessary to follow very closely the principal Act. By Sub-section (3) of Section 3 of this Bill the words "before the appointed date" are to be omitted for Sub-section (5) of Section 2 of the principal Act. The real Substance of this Amendment is to take some other steps than those now enforced with regard to the granting of certificates of exemption. Under the principal Act a Government Department can not only exempt anyone in the employment of a particular Department, but can also grant exemption where it appears to the Department that certificates can be more conveniently granted by the Department than by the local tribunal to "men and classes and bodies of men who are employed or engaged or qualified for employment or engagement in any work which is certified by the Department to be work of national importance and whose 1288 exemption comes within the sphere of the Department." There can be no doubt that there has been dissatisfaction at the way in which these Government Departments have given these certificates of exemption. We have talked a great deal to-night about equality of sacrifice. At any rate we ought to get something like equality of treatment, and if the ordinary man goes before a tribunal for exemption there is no reason why a Government Department, without any publicity and with only its own investigation, should grant these certificates, not only for men within the Department, but for men whose exemption is based upon the fact that they are "employed or engaged or qualified to be engaged or employed upon work of national service." That is really carrying the doctrine of infallibility of the Departments too far. These certificates are granted, we do not know how many, to whom, what investigation has been made, and as far as the public is aware the Department simply makes, a list and there are the men exempt for ever, and I really do not think that is. a fair way of dealing with them. It might very well be argued that the chief of a Department is the best judge of men within. the Department, but I altogether dissent from the view that the chief of a Department is the best judge of whether a man is indispensable for work of national importance generally. My Amendment is at any rate to remove this inequality of treatment and to say that a certificate granted' under the circumstances I have just mentioned shall be treated as an exemption unless within thirty days, as the case may be—there are two separate cases—ho makes an application to the local tribunal for confirmation of the certificate. Then the local tribunal goes into the circumstances—the Department can be represented before the local tribunal—and the local tribunal makes up its mind. It may be said by hon. Members below the Gangway, who have spoken with very scant courtesy and respect of the tribunals, that it is not wise to leave these things to them. That is not open to the right hon. Gentlemen opposite because they have told us how these tribunals are doing their work satisfactorily and well. Therefore it is no loss for them to go from a Government Department which they know something of to one which is doing its work well. In these circumstances it would be far more-satisfactory for the country generally to know that every man, whether in private 1289 or Government service, was dealt with exactly in the same way. I know of instances which have come within my own observation in regard to a certain district which I need not indicate, where there is a good deal of fruit farming, and it appeared that a great many young men there were, somehow or other, not called up. They had not been before a tribunal, and upon inquiry, so far as could be found, it appeared that the local chamber of agriculture, somehow or other, in conjunction with the Board of Agriculture, had got these men (exempted. That is not the right way to do the thing. Let us know if a man is indispensable. Let it be done publicly before a tribunal and not privately in a Government Department. I move this Clause because I think it is just and because I think it will remove a great deal of the dissatisfaction that is felt. I hope the Government will accept it.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
This is a very serious and far-reaching new Clause. It affects Government Departments very seriously, particularly the Board of Admiralty, and on behalf of that Department I am bound to take strong exception to it. My right hon. Friend's purpose is simply this, that any certificate. granted by a Department of State shall not be a certificate of exemption unless and until the holder has received confirmation of his certificate by the local tribunal. That is a very serious departure from the scheme of the principal Act. Incidentally this new Clause does not carry out what my right hon. Friend desires. It tackles Clause 2, Sub-section (5), and deals with it, but it leaves Clause 2, Sub-section (2), unrepealed and entirely unamended. It will impose confirmation by the tribunal of one Departmental certificate of exemption, but will leave it entirely unimposed upon the other
I understand that my new Clause would not make it necessary to go before a tribunal when the Department exempts a man within the Department; Taut when the Department exempts men on the ground that they are "employed, or engaged, or qualified for employment or engagement in any work which is certified lay the Department to be work of national importance," then they should go before a tribunal.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The fact remains that this new Clause deals with Clause 2, Sub-section (5), and leaves Clause 2, Sub- 1290 section (2), untouched; therefore, it does affect one Departmental opportunity for certification of exemption and leaves the other untouched. I do not press that, although it would put the whole badging system into the melting pot. I will deal with the proposal as the right hon. Gentleman intended it should be, that is to say, whatever the circumstances, where individuals or bodies of men are concerned, certificates of exemption granted by a Department shall not be certificates of exemption unless they receive confirmation by the tribunals. That is a proposition which very. seriously affects the Ministry of Munitions and the Admiralty. Take the case of the Admiralty. We were very well ahead with proposals and schemes for the issue of badges and certificates. We were ahead and had worked upon these long before the Ministry of Munitions was formed, and we issued our first notification to Admiralty contractors engaged upon shipbuilding and armaments so far back as 26th December, 1914. In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the way these badges and certificates are issued, I am entitled to read the principal part of the document which was issued in 1914. It is headed:Badges for workman whose serivces are indispensable for the rapid completion of Sis Majesty's ships and armaments.The Secretary of the Admiralty begs to forward herewith a sample of a badge which may be worn by workmen in your employment continually engaged upon His Majesty's ships and armaments, subject to the following conditions, the strict observance of which is of the utmost importance:—The issue of the badge is to be restricted to those employés who, from their experience and skill, are absolutely indispensable for the rapid and effective execution of work upon His Majesty's ships and armaments. A. great responsibility rests upon all concerned to see that this qualification for the awards of the badge is strictly observed. Employers are earnestly requested to exercise a prorer discretion in this matter and to co-operate in securing to the utmost extent practicable that the badge is not issued to any person who could be spared to join the Colours if he so desires. A register shall be carefully kept of the names of all persons to whom badges are issued. All persons to whom badges have been issued may. in the event of their discharge or of their ceasing to be employed on His Majesty's ships and armaments be called on to surrender their badges and tickets. In issuing badges care should be taken to warn the recipients that under no circumstances must they transfer them to any other person; and you are invited to assist in securing, as far as possible, that the badges shall be used strictly for the purpose for which they were issued, and that there shall be no improper transference to unauthorised persons.We began with that. That was in December, 1914. We issued under the same conditions badges to indispensable workers in the Royal dockyards and in the Admiralty offices. What we did when the original Military Service Act of 1916 1291 was passed was to apply Section 2, Subsection (5). My right hon. Friend says that all these indispensable certificates that have ben issued will have to go to the tribunal for confirmation. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has realised that it means that Admiralty officials—and the same is true of the Ministry of Munitions—will have to spend an enormous amount of time in appearing before the tribunals all over the country to support applications by shipbuilding and armament firms for their men and to support applications in regard to a very large number of men engaged in the Royal dockyards, naval establishments, and Admiralty offices. I most cordially agree that the war work badge exception should not be used except to cover absolute indispensability. I take common ground with my right hon. Friend in that matter. I think that the original circular called attention to that when we started the issue of these badges. But notwithstanding all that, the conditions under which the badges have been issued are at this moment, and have been for some time past, subject to very careful review by a badging committee, an influential committee, under independent chairmen. We do not want our badges to be a mere shelter for any man who, not being indispensable and being physically fit and of military age, ought to be with the Colours. So far as we are concerned, we certainly do not intend that that should be done. I would also like to clear up this point for my right hon. Friend. There is an idea that these badges have been circulated in such a way as to make them a shelter for persons who really are fit for military service.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Now nobody imagines that we have enough labour to-day for shipbuilding and munitions of war. We have not. Let that be perfectly clear. I should say at this moment, over the whole field, for new construction and repair work for the Fleet proper and their auxiliaries, for work on munitions of war, as my right hon. Friend will admit, and for urgent work in the mercantile marine, there is a shortage to-day of many thousands of hands. There is no doubt about that; and they are urgently needed. Therefore, I do not imagine that we are holding up any vast number of men who ought to be with the Colours. No doubt there is some room for replacement. 1292 But there is urgent need for a large increase in the total number of hands now employed, and to meet that we must use dilution as seriously as we can. We will proceed with the recalling of skilled men from the Colours. As to skilled craftsmen, they must do the work which they alone can do, but, wherever possible, semi-skilled handymen must set him free, and every trade union demarcation rule must be set aside for the period of the War. Women must be called upon to a larger extent than at the present time to do work which is within their physical capacity, and which is being done by men now. All this, of course, is with the due assurance that we shall re-establish the status quo as soon as the War is over. If we prosecute all this seriously we shall continue the exemption of men who are really indispensable, and we can release those who are not always indispensable. But do not let anyone imagine that we have got enough labour for the munitions of this country.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
There is an independent chairman, and the members represent the War Office, the Admiralty, the Home Office, the Ministry of Munitions, and the Reserved Occupations Committee. My right hon. Friend referred to the Departments themselves in respect of their servants. The whole of the Admiralty Staff, so far as it consists of men of military age, was carefully reviewed in December last. They were divided into three classes—Class (a), those whose services could be spared on being replaced by women or men not eligible for military service; Class (b), those whose services could only be dispensed with without serious inconvenience to the public service; and Class (c), those whose services were considered indispensable. The whole of those included in Class (a) who had not attested were replaced early this year by women, or by men ineligible for military service. Those who attested remained until they were called up. Those included in Class (b) are, as far as possible, being replaced in the same way, and the list is reviewed from time to time in consultation with the heads of the Departments concerned.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
No, I cannot give the number. It may interest the House to 1293 know that already we have taken into our employment close upon a thousand women. Let me give an instance and take one department only. It is true that it is not a department engaged on any secret work. I take the Accountant-General's Department, and I have no doubt that the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) would look upon that as an extremely important department. At the beginning of the War the staff numbered under five hundred. Roughly, one-quarter of those have gone, but now the total staff numbers fifteen hundred, and over twelve hundred of those are new entrants. That is in a department dealing with finance, and of a staff of fifteen hundred only about twenty-five per cent. are old servants. I say that is eloquent testimony to the care with which we have gone through the servants of the Department. The facts speak for themselves. This is the method which we have applied to the whole department, and although we do not go to the tribunal for the reason I have stated, I think the House will be content with the assurance that we desire to shelter no one behind any certificate, but to give all those who can fairly be spared for the fighting line.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
Can the right hon. Gentleman say that he has exercised care in taking on the new people?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think I may say that we certainly give preference to women, or persons not of military age or who are not physically fit.
§ Mr. J. MASON
The right hon. Gentleman has, of course, made out a very considerable case for the Admiralty, and so far as this Clause is concerned with direct war work, munitions, and so on. But that Department is by no means the only one which is guilty of this kind of thing. The other Departments seem to me, in some cases—I do not want to make too much of it—to have issued exemption certificates to men who are by no means indispensable or essential, and who, although not in very great numbers so far as I know, have been the cause of very considerable criticism, this action being regarded as unfair and also 1294 as setting a very bad example. The particular case that I have in mind is one affecting the class of man called an agricultural organiser. These men were created a very short time ago, and there is not a very large number of them, but at the beginning of the War the work of these men, which was purely research work, was in many cases abandoned like a good deal of other work of that kind. The Board of Agriculture arranged with the War Office to exempt this class of man without consulting the local authorities at all, and in the particular case I have in mind the chairman of the county council, the chairman of the local sub-committee, which was the immediate authority concerned, and the chairman of the War Committee all agreed that this man is not required. He is a single man of somewhere about thirty years of age, and yet he has been exempted without any consultation with the local authorities, and is simply sheltering himself behind his exemption. I say that to have that man, on that kind of non-essential although, no doubt, very useful work, exempted, while numbers of farmers' sons and others who are much more closely and intimately connected with the essential side of agriculture are being taken, is setting a very bad example.
§ Sir F. CAWLEY
The right hon. Gentleman has given us some very interesting details, and, so far as I can see, the result of all he said is this: that the tribunals are to be good enough for everybody else but they must not interfere with the Admiralty. In fact, he wants to set up another tribunal instead of the tribunal which everybody says has worked so well. He says that the tribunal which the Admiralty has approved is the Badging Committee. There has been very considerable dissatisfaction in regard to this matter in the Government offices, and therefore I think they should be submitted to the same tribunal as everybody else and should not have special tribunals set up for themselves. I hope the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) will see that this measure of justice is carried out. The right hon. Gentleman (Dr. Macnamara) said that they do not want to shelter these men behind any badge. If they do not, let them all go before the tribunal in the ordinary way, and let justice be done equally all round.
§ Captain EDGE
I desire to support the Clause moved by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Ellis Griffith). I do that 1295 because the idea has secured a very firm hold in the minds of hundreds of thousands of the people of this country that there are thousands of eligible men, I will not say hiding, but missing service, behind the badges issued by the Government Departments. That is a view which is not only held outside but inside this House. I am attracted to this Clause in the first place because it is democratic. It does not affect for one moment the power of any Government Department to give a badge to protect any man whom they consider is indispensable to industry, but at the same time it certainly acts as a limit upon an unscrupulous firm or employer which may desire to use, or trick, a Government Department into giving a badge which may shelter a man who has no right to be sheltered behind these badges. It certainly will strengthen the position of every legitimate holder of a badge, and will correspondingly weaken the position of the other man. The procedure is perfectly fair and gives a Department the opportunity to appear before a tribunal to state the case for industry. The Army authorities would state the case for the Army, and the tribunal, having listened to both sides, would come to a decision, strengthened in their opinions by the unrivalled knowledge of the local circumstances of the particular firm and the particular man, and I think their judgment would at any rate be a substantial measure of justice. In urging the claims of this Clause upon the Committee, I would point out that it puts a Government Department on the same footing as a private employer, because if they claim men as indispensable they have to go before the local tribunal. It certainly will check a tendency which might arise on the part of a Government Department, in these conditions of labour scarcity, to be extravagant with labour. This Clause, if it is incorporated in the Bill, will undoubtedly smooth away many of the difficulties that may arise in the working of this measure. It will do something, which I am very anxious to see in a free country, to abolish the veto of the Government official, and it is certainly the most practical method of dealing with the problem of men missing service behind a badge, many times at the expense of married men.
Mr. H. SAMUEL
I should like briefly to place two or three considerations before the House which do not appear to have been present to the minds of hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate. In 1296 the first place, let me refer to the very large class of men who are granted exemption, under the provisions of the Act now criticised, by the Home Office. I mean the miners. There you have a large body of some hundreds of thousands of men who, by universal consent, must be kept at their work. A long time ago, with the full approval of the War Office, it was arranged that no more miners working below ground were to be recruited for the Army, and that no more men working on the surface were to be recruited if they belonged to certain indispensable classes. Subsequently it was pointed out that a certain number of men had entered the mines since last August, in order to evade the Military Service Act, and it was agreed that exemption should be withdrawn from any of those men challenged by the military adviser, and not held to be indispensable by the tribunal dealing with the case.
All this great body of men is dealt with, not by the local tribunals, but by special tribunals which deal with them, mine by mine, to see whether particular individuals really do belong to the exempted classes, and whether the man is really a hewer, and that man is really an engine-man, and so forth. These Colliery Courts, as they are called, represent the employers and employed; they are presided over by the Inspectors of Mines, who are officials of the Home Office. The military representatives attend them. They have worked quite satisfactorily, and no one has any complaint to make against them from any quarter. This Clause would sweep away the whole of that system, and would compel us to send up every miner before a local tribunal, which is really not very well suited for dealing with the claims of that industry.
I will give another illustration, that of a Department with which I have been for a long time connected—and for a time during the course of the War—that is the General Post Office. The General Post Office had about 250,000 employés in this country. A very large number have been sent to the War. When I left the Post Office a few months ago, I think about 60,000 had gone to the War. The utmost efforts have been made by the Department to spare every possible man. What would be the position of a local tribunal if it had to decide whether a particular Post Office servant at headquarters in London or in other places in the country ought to 1297 be exempted or not? Ought they merely to accept the word of the Department, or ought they to make an independent inquiry? If they merely accept the word of the Department, you are no further on than now, and this Clause is unnecessary; if they make an independent inquiry, they really cannot form an instructed opinion as to whether particular persons can be spared from the Department without disorganising its work. I will give a third illustration—men in the mercantile marine—sailors on board British ships. Clearly, they ought to be exempted. We must carry on there. Everyone admits that the work of our mercantile marine is essential. These men are exempted now by a very simple and smooth-working system through the offices of the Board of Trade—the shipping offices, where they always have to report themselves whenever they come ashore. There they get their exemptions and the whole of them are dealt with quite satisfactorily, and no complaint has ever been made. This Clause would sweep away all that system as well, and all these men would have to go before a local tribunal.
Let me say, lastly, that the Government have, within the last few months, taken a very firm grip of this question, and have established machinery which, I believe, has got rid, or is very rapidly getting rid of the complaints made during the earlier months of the War. There is a conference which meets now almost every week—occasionally it has met more than once in a week, I believe—which is presided over by the President of the Local Government Board, and which I have the honour of attending as the representative of the Home Office. It is attended also by the President of the Board of Trade, the Secretary of State for War. This con-sentatives of the Ministry of Munitions, and the Admiralty, and the Board of Agriculture. All these Departments, represented either by Ministers or by their highest officials, meet week by week. Many officials of the War Office are there, including the Adjutant-General, and Lord Derby and members of his staff, as well as the Secretary of State for War. This conference goes through all these cases and decides questions of principle and what class of men further can be released from these badged occupations. Under the auspices of that Committee no fewer than 200 Government inspectors have been for some weeks, and are now at work visiting all the factories where there are exempted 1298 men, one by one, and examining the case of each man. There are inspectors of the Ministry of Munitions in considerable numbers, of the War Office, of the Home Office, and of other Departments. The effect has been that we have found ourselves able to withdraw a very large number of exemptions from men employed in those factories already. Owing to the substitution of women and to the dilution of labour it is found that a considerable proportion of the certificated and badged men can be withdrawn. That process is now going on excellently. The Government is fully alive to the importance of this subject, and approaches it in precisely the same spirit as hon. Members who have spoken here to-night, and I beg the House not to accept this Clause, which would upset the whole of this organisation and throw the thing into the melting-pot, and leave all this to the uninformed discretion of the local and Appeal Tribunals.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
The right hon. Gentleman has made, as he always does, a clever speech, though I think the last sentence rather gave away the case. He told us that after they set Government inspectors at work, the Government found that their vaunted badge system was a failure, and they were able to weed out a large number of people from these trades, who, a few months before, they were able to badge with perfect satisfaction to themselves. Either the Government were wrong then or they are wrong now. They cannot have been right on both occasions. But the whole process shows the difficulty of legislating by a Government Department. Take the case of the miners. We all agree that most of them should be exempted, although I think it was not until the hon. Member for Ince made that statement to the House about a fortnight ago that 3,000 miners had gone down the mines to escape conscription that the Government started to take action.
No; action was taken by the Government three or four months ago. I think the hon. Member for Ince would have been far more correct if, instead of 3,000 men in Lancashire, he had said between 300 and 400.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but I think the hon. Member for Ince thought he knew what he was talking about, as he is no controversialist. I regret he is not here to-night. The point is that these cases ought to have been 1299 dealt with by Parliament and not by Government Departments. If the miners' class had been dealt with in the original Bill there would have been none of this difficulty. But I will assume, for the moment, that the miners ought to be exempted in this way or some other. But neither of the right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken have dealt with what, to most people, is the crying evil of the number of young men in the Government Departments themselves. Not men in trades, who are badged by the Government, but the men who do the badging. The clerks in all the Government Departments—the Admiralty, the Home Office, the Local Government Board, and even in the War Office. There are a large number of men in the War Office who ought to be at the front in the trenches, whilst older men ought to do their work. One has only to walk through the War Office to see a large number of young men and young officers there who, from all appearances, ought to be at the front and should leave the older men to do their work. They may not be exempted, but they are allowed to remain here by the head of a particular Government Department. There is a very strong feeling throughout the country—as our correspondence shows that there are a large number of Government clerks shirking behind their badges, who may be exempted. If these men had to go before the tribunal, and the heads of the Government Departments had to prove that they were really essential to the conduct of those Government Departments, there would be a better feeling all round that everybody was being treated more fairly than is at present the case. Many of us have been pressing for weeks and months past for a return of men in the Government Departments who are exempted. We cannot get it. We have tried over and over again, and it has been promised over and over again. I asked a question only last week, and the Secretary to the Treasury came down with the usual excuses that it was not ready and that they were trying to get it ready as soon as possible. If the head of each Government Department would take it into his own hands we should very quickly get this return made, and we should know if these statements which are floating around the country as to the young men in Government Departments are true or not. If they are true, then it is time they went before a local tribunal, because it shows that the heads of the Departments have been too lenient in re- 1300 gard to these young men. We want them all to serve equally. We want to turn out any young men; and we have the right to ask the heads of the Government Departments to assist us and not to hinder us.
§ Sir C. HENRY
I want to press on the President of the Local Government Board, the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, opposite (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) with reference to asking the Government for a return, of the young men of military age in Government Departments. I asked for that return myself somewhat over two months, ago, and I got the same reply as was given last week by the Secretary to the Treasury, that it is in course of preparation and is-being compiled, but that it is not ready. The very fact that that answer was given proves that there is a large number of such men in these Departments. One of the first objects of the President of the Local Government Board ought to be to comb out these young men. It has become more and more patent to the general public that there are in these departments—the-Admiralty, the Home Office, and the-Local Government Board—a lot of men who are eligible for military service and who can be replaced by others.
§ Sir C. HENRY
I may say with regard to the Admiralty that I was told that of the number there of military age some had been medically rejected. When I pressed the question I found that they had not undergone any medical examination. It was a mere matter of conjecture whether they were medically fit or not. We all recognise that it is inconvenient for heads of Departments to chainge their employés during time of war, but we all have to suffer inconvenience, and until the large number of young men in these Departments have been weeded out there will be a feeling of injustice.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I rise to support the Clause moved by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Anglesey, and I must say I have not been convinced by the speeches coming from the Front Bench. I suppose that when a Division is taken those in favour of a small Army will vote with the Government. Several Members of the House on these benches not far from where I am have intimated that they will support the Government on this occasion only on that ground. This is another instance of what we get frequently in this 1301 House—Government Departments bringing in laws but placing themselves above those laws. I undertake to say you will never get a Housing Bill brought in by a Government Department except on the condition that they will not observe these requirements themselves, and one of the first ingredients of their projects is that they will not abide by local by-laws which private people have to abide by. It is the same in all Government Departments. Many people are suffering the most extreme inconvenience because of this. It interferes with the attendance of many Members of this House; and some of us have to work sixteen and eighteen hours a day. Who ever heard of the employés in a Government office doing that? He would cry out long before it comes to that. But we must make these sacrifices during the War. There has not been a single word from the Government Bench in favour of the tribunals. The right hon. Gentleman who moved this Clause paid the tribunals a compliment, but that has not been echoed from the Government Front Bench. Dead silence is observed with regard to the quality of the tribunals now. There is very great dissatisfaction indeed, both on the part of those conducting industry and on the part of the young men who have been compelled to go as soldiers. Anyone who stands in Whitehall and sees the people going to Government offices, 'and sees them leaving at night, must be stricken to the heart with a sense of the hypocrisy of the whole thing. I do not know what the explanation is. We have had two speeches from the Government Bench. The two right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken are clever enough to give the best instances to repel the attack. But take the case of the Insurance Department. Who will get up on the Front Bench and say that the heads of the Insurance Department have dealt fairly with this question since the War started? They have kept people by dozens and scores who ought to be serving in the Army. It is all very well to talk about mines and certain controlled establishments. That is not so much what has caused this Clause to be moved. It is the desire on the part of the House that the Government Departments, whose salaries we vote, shall stand in line with the rest of the community. If the Government can satisfy us that they are toeing the same line as everybody else we should be perfectly content, but that is not the case. I venture to appeal to the Government to 1302 meet us in some way. If they cannot accept this Clause at any rate let us have some assurance that something more will be done in some way. In the absence of any satisfaction being given to the House,. I am afraid that those who want a strong, Army, and who want equality of treatment, have no option but to vote for this. Clause.
§ 1.0 A.M.
Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT
I entirely endorse what has been said by the hon. Member for Pontefract. We have had two speeches from the Front Bench, from two right hon. Gentlemen who are certainly not among the least capable of stating a case, and those speeches have been wholly unconvincing. It is unfortunate, I think, that the Secretary to the Admiralty should have been. the first to reply, because, from information that reaches me, that Department is one of the very worst offenders in the whole of the Government Departments. From information I have had I think the place to which the Secretary to the Admiralty should go to seek for these hidden heroes would be the offices of the Admiralty here and not in the shipyards and places where men are really doing national work. In his own offices he will find many young men who ought to be doing their duty in the field. The Home Secretary made a point of the arrangement that had been made with regard to mines, the Post Office, and the mercantile marine. Well, I will give him the mercantile marine, but with regard to the other two I will state my opinion that he has wholly overstated his case. With regard to the miners, it is a notorious fact in South Wales that the mines are full of men who come from other parts of the country, and who, until quite recently, had never been in a mine. Only a month or two ago I was speaking to a miner's agent in my own Constituency who told me that he would like to see every exemption taken off the miners altogether, and that it was doing more harm to the industry of mining than if we had free enlistment. I can assure my right hon. Friend, though he looks upon the special tribunals which have been set up under the Home Office with great satisfaction, that that is not the way they are looked' upon in the mining districts. On the contrary, if he will come down there, I can get him evidence very much to the contrary. A slight difference of opinion arose between him and one of my hon. Friends 1303 with regard to a statement made by an hon. Member who spoke a short time ago. My recollection of that statement was that the hon. Member said that none of the men—whether they were 300 or 3,000—that none of them had been combed out.
Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT
He may possibly have exaggerated the number unintentionally, but the point of his remarks seemed to be that whatever the number was they had not been combed out at the time of which he spoke. That does not speak very well for these particular arrangements, and with regard to the Post Office the right hon. Gentleman showed us in the remarks he made that the independent inquiry and inspection that had been set up had resulted in the setting free of a very considerable number of men. That seems to me to be a very strong argument in favour of independent inspection.
Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT
If I was mistaken about that I withdraw, but I will ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has happened to have heard tell of what has been happening in other countries. The same difficulty arises in other countries, and it has been found in France that the Government Department is not the best judge as to who should be retained in that Department or not. They have had several fights in France with regard to what is called embusquerin a Government Department, and it has only been by rigid and independent inspection that they have managed to cut their way through. If my right hon. Friend carries this Clause to a Division I shall certainly support him.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I am thoroughly in sympathy with the Mover of this Clause and with the combing out system that ought to take place, and which I do not think has been proved to have taken place at all by the able speeches which have been made in defence of the Bill. It is quite clear that a mistake was made in the original Bill 1304 in not giving the tribunals control in this matter in some way, and I hope the Government may in some fashion or another get the tribunals to sanction men who have been given badges being kept at the work they are now engaged upon. But I would point out that there is one difficulty about this Clause. As I understand it, it does not deal with the men who are in the direct employment of the Government Departments, and that is the point which is perhaps the most important of all. There is more of what the hon. and gallant Member called "embusquer" in the Government Departments than there is in the munition works, and we want to get at the young gentlemen who have suddenly found a great desire for Civil Service work and have managed to get into a Government Department since the beginning of the War and are still hidden away there and have badges of exemption in very great numbers. We have been told that in certain Departments—I think the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. Samuel) said there were only two in his—we have been told that many Departments have a great many exempted men, and what the country is dissatisfied at is that the Government, which says it wants every man, hides some of these men, or appears to hide them. If we had the statistics which have been promised to us of the number of men employed in Government Departments who are of military age and fit for military service, then we should probably be able to get rid of this idea that thousands of them are hidden in Government Departments. Something ought to be done to satisfy the public that the Government Departments are not keeping men back, though I do not think this Amendment would carry that out, because it deals more with munition workers, whom, after all, most of us have great sympathy with. We know, too, that colliers are absolutely necessary. South Wales may be rather worse than most places, but, as a general rule, very few colliers, I believe, have got work except to replace men who have gone. We have to keep the collieries at work and to keep our mercantile marine and our munition workers, but we are afraid, and the country is afraid, the Government Departments are not quite fair and square about those they employ in their own Departments. Those are the people we want to get at, but I am afraid this Amendment would not touch them.
§ Mr. J. M. ROBERTSON
I would point out to the hon. Gentleman who has just 1305 spoken that he has, perhaps unwittingly, done a great deal of injustice to some in the Government service, of whom he has spoken as shirkers. To my knowledge a great many wanted to go, but were refused permission, as the Departments required their services and knew they could not replace them. They were not sheltering at their own wish.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I thought I had made myself clear. What the country complains of is that the heads of Departments are hiding up men who ought to go for military service, not that the men themselves are shirking.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
The point raised is that the Government is supposed to be no judge of the importance of any employés in the public service. Who is to represent the State in a matter at all if we come to a point at which the tribunals—which have come in for a good deal of criticism at the hands of many Members—are supposed to represent public opinion in the purest degree while the heads of Government Departments are not? The State is going to pieces if you cannot trust Government Departments. I know my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) has a standing prejudice against anything in the nature of an official, but that prejudice could not close his eyes to the fact that in this emergency your officials must, in the nature of things, be your judges of the importance of men to the Government service. May I point out, further, that if the idea which underlies a great many of the speeches to-night is realised, you will simply swamp your tribunals with an enormous number of cases? If the tribunals are to judge of all the cases of miners, that means that every individual case will have to be considered or else you will have, as the Home Secretary suggested, tribunals having to take the assurance of Departments who had previously managed the matter that they are really acting in the public interest. If you accept that assurance in the case of the miners, what becomes of the argument in all the other cases? And if you do not accept it and throw the whole of the miners' cases upon the tribunals you will have all their cases judged separately, and you will certainly not in that way promote the efficiency of the public service in general, but will make tribunals wholly incapable of getting through their business.
§ Mr. LONG
I observe that practically everyone who has spoken, except my right 1306 hon. Friend opposite, and perhaps one or two other Members, have supported this Amendment. I am able to speak on this matter with greater freedom because I am not concerned with the badging of men or the reserving of occupations. It is because my Department is not concerned as are other Departments, like the Admiralty, the War Office, the Board of Trade, and the Board of Agriculture, that I have been able to act with absolute impartiality as Chairman of the Conference which deals with de-badging. From the beginning, when I was called upon to act in this matter, I have looked at my duty from the one point of view alone of getting men, because I think we who are the heads of Departments ought to be trusted—and we are the only people who can do the work—to see that a sufficient number of men is retained to give the country what it wants, whether it be coal or munitions, or in any other respect. Therefore if I thought that the work had' been badly done, as has been stated by more than one speaker, it would be my bounden duty, whatever my predilections, and of course it would be my desire, to, tell the House frankly that there must be a change. A great many of the speeches on this Amendment have dealt with young gentlemen who, it is said, are to be found in Government Departments. I wish hon. Members before they make these statements would in fairness come into Government Departments and see for themselves. I do not in the least complain about the charges made against ourselves, the heads of Departments of the Government—
§ Mr. LONG
Of course, I know that there are many Members of the House, and possibly there are many people outside, who think that the only reason for which the Government exists is to be abused when there is nobody else to be abused. I do not resent that, but I do resent what is said about these young men, because it is not true. Before you make these charges you should in common fairness come into the Department and see for yourselves that it is absolutely untrue that our officials are selected by a subordinate permanent official; they come before us heads of Departments; we have been through them time after time. Why does the hon. Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) bring these charges against us? We are individually just as patriotic as he is, just as anxious to serve 1307 the State, and just as unwilling to protect and cover up anybody. Why the suggestion that we are spending all our time in protecting young men in our offices who ought to be in the Army?
§ Mr. LONG
I say it is not true; and I say before these statements are made. hon. Members ought to come into our offices and see for themselves, and they will see that they are not true. But even if it were true, this Amendment does not deal with it. It is my duty to warn the House that if they proceed, as I gather they are going to do, to adopt this Amendment, they will take a very grave responsibility. It has been said that nobody who has spoken hitherto from the Treasury Bench has advocated the cause of the tribunals. We have certainly not suggested that the tribunals are unfit for work of this kind in any way. It is not a question of unfitness. Will anybody for a moment stop to think of our munitions? Everybody will agree, most people have agreed about coal; everybody will agree that munitions are just as important as men. We all remember the agony we endured when we knew more than a year ago that we had the men, but we had not enough munitions for them. Therefore, munitions are as important at least as men, and I think coal is as important. Let the House realise what is proposed. You have got these munition factories which, as the House knows, are spread all over the country. You have got in them thousands of men who are working at the highest possible pressure in the production of munitions. I am authorised by the Minister of Munitions to say that if you carry this Amendment you will expose all these thousands of workmen in the various branches of munition work to the need to go before the tribunals who, as he says, and I entirely agree with him from my experience as an impartial outsider, are not able to decide these things, not because of unfitness, but because they have not got the facts before them. It is only those who are responsible for the production of munitions who know where the works are, how they are divided and constituted and equipped, who can judge; there is no other way in which you can come to a decision as to the men who are wanted. It is not because the Government want to keep any of their employés from what is their duty. Surely nobody 1308 suggests that we are keeping these men hidden in these Departments for some ulterior reason of our own. We are responsible to this House and to the country for the munitions, without which men are useless, for the, coal without which our ships cannot protect our shores, for the shipping and shipbuilding, without which the work of the world and of this country cannot be done.
I say with a full sense of the responsibility which my words carry, and I warn the House, that if they adopt this Amendment they will do so in ignorance of the true facts; they will adopt a course so serious, and in the face of definite statements made by three Members of the Government, that the Government will be compelled to take steps to alter the situation because we cannot accept the responsibility for keeping our country supplied with all that she needs if the War is to be successfully carried out, and at the same time be subjected to the particular form of supervision suggested. It would be impossible for us to do the work which it is our duty to do. I have spoken strongly. I have no personal feeling in the matter. I have discussed this matter with the Minister of Munitions, with the First Lord of the Admiralty, with the War Office, and with the Board of Trade, and I say that the situation has not been exaggerated in any degree by the language I have used. We are all doing this work through the Departments by means of the de-badging which we are carrying on. It has been said that the fact that we have de-badged men who were badged a short time ago proves that the work was badly done. Nothing of the kind. What it proves is that at the beginning as a precaution it was absolutely essential to badge a great many men in the early days who can be released now. And why is that? It is because their places can be taken by other people; because we are replacing them by women and by older men. It does not prove that the work was badly done before; it only proves that as time (roes on we learn by experience, and are able to fill the places of these men.
§ Mr. LONG
Well, the figures of my Department have been sent in long ago, and I think so also have the figures from most of the other Departments. I "will make inquiries in the morning. I am very sorry indeed to hear that the Return has not been presented, and I will take steps to see that it is presented with the least possible delay. I am satisfied that when it is presented hon. Members will find that I am quite correct in what I have said About the Departments themselves and about the men who are engaged in producing the munitions of war for the country. I beg the House not to take a step, the gravity of which cannot be exaggerated, and which would have, I believe, a very grave effect on the prosecution of the War, which is the first duty of every man of the country at this moment.
Mr. T. WILSON
I think everybody must agree that in all the Government Departments there are men of military age who are indispensable, particularly in regard to the older departments, but in connection with the new departments I think that the head of the department ought to see to it that he employs as many men over military age as he possibly can. In connection with matters that have been sent to me to deal with, I have had occasion during the last few months to visit various sections of the Ministry of Munitions on different occasions, and I was rather ahead of one of the Members for Somerset with regard to making enquiries as to the employment in the Munitions Department of men of military age. Some few months ago I put a question on the Paper, and I was told in reply that they could not give any information, but would inquire into it and let me know later on. At a later date I received a letter from the Munitions Department—I am speaking now from memory because I have not the letter with me—and I was told that there were something over nine hundred men of military age employed in the Munitions Department; that over six hundred of these were medically fit; and that with the exception of some twenty-four or twenty-six they had all attested. What is the use of attesting unless the Department is prepared to release them? They might as well not attest at all, and I do think that, in connection with the Ministry of Munitions being a new Department and knowing that men of military age are required, they ought to go out of their way to get men over military age; and I hope the Presi- 1310 dent of the Local Government Board, when the Committee of which he is chairman meets again, will make careful inquiry into the matter.
I should like to say, in connection with munition factories and Government Departments, that I have letters of my own every day on the subject stating that men are tumbling over each other; getting in each other's way, and cannot get on with the work. I think there ought to be a stricter combing out. in these factories than there has been up to the present moment. Why I say that is that of my own knowledge there are men in munitions establishments who know nothing whatever about the work they are supposed to do—greengrocers and gardeners—and I do say that the managements of these controlled establishments ought to be compelled to disclose the nature of the work these men are doing, and what they were doing, before they went into the Munitions Department. If that is done I am satisfied that you will get thousands of men of military age out of the Department. I do hope this question will be gone into thoroughly, because if not it makes people not employed in Government Departments discontented; and not only the men, but the employers, because many employers of labour in this country are being compelled to let men go whom they can scarcely do without. I know that in the cotton trade some of the mills will be closed and the staff transferred to another mill, and that will keep them going; but the cotton trade is one of the staple industries of the country, and if we are to maintain the credit of the country, and that of the Allies as well, the Government will have to be extremely careful in the number of men they take. I hope they will go thoroughly into the question of weeding out men in their own departments.
In view of the appeal that has been made to me by the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long), and especially of the very grave words he used in that appeal, I should not think it my duty to press this Clause. I do hope, however, the right hon. Gentleman will think that the Debate has served a very useful purpose. There is really no reason for the delay in giving these figures. In these circumstances I would ask the leave of the House to withdraw my Motion.
§ Leave withheld.1311
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I have been endeavouring to say a few words on this Amendment for the last half-hour, and I think I am entitled to offer what observations I have to make to the House. I regret deeply that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. E. Griffith), who represents a "ginger" group, should have so misunderstood his functions as to withdraw his Motion, even after the speech of the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long). It seems to me that we are in an extraordinary position; that the Government have threatened awful things against this House if we put the Government itself under the tribunals which they themselves have praised. Whenever an Amendment was raised which suggested that even a few tribunals were incompetent and discharged their functions in an inefficient way, we had constantly speeches from the Front Bench pointing out how absolutely competent these tribunals were. Now, however, when it is a question of the action of the Government itself, the Government declines to allow its servants to be submitted to the judgment of the tribunals. I say that there is a good case for the Government coming up for judgment before these tribunals. We have heard something of the men in Government offices. The hon. Member for West-houghton (Mr. Tyson Wilson) has referred to the Ministry of Munitions. I have good authority for saying that there are eleven hundred men of military age in munitions. I do not say that if these cases had to be decided before a tribunal, as the cases of private employers are, these men could not remain in their employment. The same applies to many controlled establishments. It is not so much the manual workers, but that there are many officials who could easily be dispensed with. Early in the month of February I raised the question with the Ministry of Munitions by a question in the House, of a particular controlled establishment in Dumbarton, where it was a matter of notoriety in the locality that certain people were being placed there, on account of the influence of their relatives, in order to escape the Military Service Act. I put a question, and the representative of the Ministry of Munitions said that they had no time to inquire into a case of that kind. It was obviously a case where local knowledge was of some value. The people in the locality knew what the men were doing before they went there. I knew of this: that in that estab- 1312 lishment were skilled men who had had their badges withdrawn from them, while unskilled men were put to the job, men of military age whose parents were keen advocates of Conscription, but who did not want their sons to go.
That is where local knowledge will come in, and it is of extreme importance that in these establishments at least there should be some check on this kind of favouritism. A suspicion of this kind does not grow up all over the country for nothing. The hon. Member for Bolton (Captain Edge) has. told us how widespread all over the country is the suspicion that certain people are receiving special treatment from the Government Departments. That kind of thing does not arise unless there is some foundation for it, and no matter what combing Committees you set up you will not disabuse people's minds of these suspicions until there is a really valid check on the Government Departments or those who serve them directly or indirectly. It is for that reason that if the right hon. Gentleman goes to a Division I shall support him.
§ Question put, and negatived.